I was once in a nice cafe in Budapest, Hungary. When the waitress asked for my drink order, I ordered orange juice. The waitress appeared confused, then regained her composure and mumbled few words in response. I assumed she wanted to clarify my order, so I just nodded to my head. She returned and brought me some kind of a smoothie. My friend laughed and said that I ordered the most expensive non-alcoholic drink on the menu. (I checked the menu and the drink was around $6, as opposed to $3 for plain juice. The smoothie ended up being excellent.)
From that point on, my Hungarian friend called me a man “who loves to order the most expensive items on the menu.” He continuously joked about that from that point on to others.
That’s classic ball busting. It’s completely benign, as his purpose wasn’t to start a physical confrontation. It was simply a way to piss me off with the hope that I will feel hurt and retaliate, thus falling into his trap. That would help him to dominate the social setting by making me look weak and defensive and him much strong and confident.
The deeper purpose of such tests is to more intimately understand who you are and what you’re made of. It’s to understand your mindset and to see if you can be easily offended by the most minor accusations. Guys who have spent lots of time being around pretty woman are already accustomed to shit tests, so they know how to pass them easily. Guys that have spent lots of time in the company of men are also accustomed to such tests and easily pass them. Essentially, guys that are confident and high value similarly have no problems sweeping them aside with flying colors.
There are several ways to respond:
- Admit and defend
- Admit and exaggerate
- Redirect and exaggerate
Ignoring (1) and denying (2) are popular options for a response. If you ignore your friend’s ball busting attempt, there’s a chance the matter will be dropped once and for all, but there’s also a chance that are your friend will keep pestering you with the hope of a response (see below). If you deny, first you’re lying, and second it shows that you don’t have a sense of humor and/or were also a bit offended.
If a person feels hurt and/or has some self-esteem issues, he or she will immediately jump to Admit and defend (3) and, after admitting that they did order an expensive drink, will defend their actions by stating that they didn’t understand Hungarian and simply assumed that the woman was clarifying the existing order. Well, in reality that’s exactly what happened. You know it and your friend knows this. The problem with this response is that that’s exactly what your friend is bating you to do: to defend your actions. By far, this is the weakest response. There’s really no need to defend anything; you didn’t commit any crime and didn’t “order the most expensive non-alcoholic drink on the menu.”
Admit and exaggerate (4) means admitting what you did and then responding sarcastically. A typical response might be: “yes, I did order the most expensive item on the menu because I love to order the most expensive drinks on every menu and in every restaurant. Simply give me any menu and I’ll immediately order the most expensive items without looking at the rest.”
While sarcasm always sends the point across, using sarcasm is a poor way to mask your limited ability to deal with ball busting remarks. I have a guy friend who always responds in a sarcastic way every time someone ball busts him for his action. American girls love sarcasm as a way to defuse ball-busting situations. That gets real old, real quick. Sarcasm is the first thing people grab on when they feel socially threatened but need to respond. Rookies use it often but pros use it sparingly.
Redirect (5) is a way to immediately flip the script on the person who made the joke. The typical response would be: “Hey, you seem jealous sitting there with your lowly juice while I have an awesome smoothie. If you want, I can give you some.” This is a great response because instead of focusing and defending yourself, you immediately flip the script on the guy who initiated the joke. This is usually enough to get your friend to understand that you’re not some mommy’s boy who gets easily offended. However, if your friend keeps busting your chops about that smoothie, then it’s time to take out the big guns.
Redirect and exaggerate (6) is one such big gun. Instead of simply redirecting onto your friend, you redirect and exaggerate. It’s generally used when options 1, 4 or 5 aren’t enough and your friend keeps hassling you with a joke that’s way past its shelf life. After my friend kept joking with everyone that I only order expensive items on menus, I began to call my friend my restaurant menu advisor.
One night, some friends and I were sitting at a bar, and, as usual, my friend started telling that same old tired story to all his friends. It was ridiculous to hear it for the Nth time, so I patiently let my friend finish. After he finished, I put my arm around him, and, with a coy smile, responded:
As all of you can see, he’s my trusted restaurant menu advisor. He knows exactly how to read restaurant menus and order to cheaper items. He does that for me everywhere we go. If you need restaurant menu advice, he’ll give you a free consultation. Highly recommended.
The group busted out into a loud laugh. After that, every one began joking if he can help them also pick an item of the menu in that restaurant. Soon, he stopped making that joke because he was tired of being solicited for his restaurant menu advisor services. His joke was effectively neutered.
The weapon was to use his own medicine against him. He took a situation (when I mistakenly ordered a more expensive item) and amplified it, making a mountain of a molehill. I took what he did (pointing out that I ordered an expensive item) and also blew it up by declaring him a restaurant menu advisor.
The strategy is exactly the same when dealing with any ball buster, whether it’s a man who’s fighting for social supremacy or a woman who’s testing you to see whether you possess good mating material. Otherwise, you risk—even without consciously realizing—falling into a trap set by your opponent and be immediately branded as someone who lacks social and emotional intelligence, and even worse: weak and helpless.